Siblings don’t get any more twincestuous than Anthony and Jackie-O Pascal, the brother-sister protagonists of Wendy MacLeod’s delectably dark The House Of Yes, back for a terrifically acted 25th-anniversary revival at the Zephyr on Melrose.
The hurricane about to hit the wealthy D.C. suburb of McLean, Virginia is but a waterspout compared to the shitstorm unleashed by Marty’s holiday homecoming this Fourth Thursday In November, for unlike Thanksgivings past, the elder Pascal son (Colin McGurk) has arrived fiancée in hand, news which twin sis Jackie-O (Kate Maher) greets with a scream so bloodcurdling it would do any slasher flick heroine proud, hardly the first but definitely the loudest indication that there are bats in Jackie-O’s belfry.
Mrs. Pascal (Eileen T’Kaye) has already made sure that Jackie-O has been given her daily medication by her younger brother Anthony (Nicholas McDonald)—“Did you check under her tongue?” —and Jackie-O has already nearly gone bonkers when the pink hairbrush that makes her long black locks “gleam” is nowhere to be found, so we know before Marty and Lesly (Jeanne Syquia) blow in all windswept and rain-drenched that things aren’t particularly sane inside Jackie-O’s perfectly coiffed head.
Not that Jackie-O is the only Pascal who’s not quite right in the noggin. Mrs. Pascal remains firmly convinced that her husband died a slow young death because “he’d simply had it with all the snippiness” notwithstanding Marty’s reminder that Daddy’s death was the opposite of slow.
Even the youngest Pascal has had his travails over the year, such as dealing with Marty’s distress when Jackie-O flushed her twin’s pet lizard down the toilet on purpose. (“I think she was jealous. Marty loved that lizard.”)
Well, at least that explains why Lesly is reminded to jiggle the toilet whenever she flushes, though toilet-jiggling is likely to be the least of Marty’s fiancée’s worries on this Thanksgiving Day From Hell.
Under Lee Sankowich’s astute direction, an absolutely splendid cast bring MacLeod’s Pascals to deliciously degenerate life on scenic designer Adam Haas Hunter’s elegantly furnished, aptly black-walled set.
Leading lady Maher has already proven herself L.A.’s Ice Queen Extraordinaire in I’ll Be Back Before Midnight, The Crucible, and Everything You Touch. This time round, Maher gets to show off some razor-sharp comedic chops as well, and she looks drop dead gorgeous in the pink Chanel suit Jackie-O dons whenever she and Marty reenact the Kennedy assassination as pre-incest foreplay. (Jackie-O’s suit and pink pillbox are just one of costume designer Wendell C. Carmichael’s fabulous creations. Lesly’s frilly blue party frock is another.)
Syquia is simply splendid as the outwardly timid Lesly, who it turns out is a good deal more fiery than the meek-and-mild mouse who initially meets the eye, particularly in her response to Anthony’s attempts to seduce her out of his elder brother’s arms.
Completing the female contingent is Los Angeles theater treasure T’Kaye, playing elegant and batty here like nobody’s business, and with a dry humor that nails every one of the gems MacLeod has coming out of T’Kaye’s perfectly pursed lips.
L.A. stage newcomers McDonald and McGurk match their female castmates every step of the way, the former’s boyish face and demeanor concealing Anthony’s own brand of twistedness, the latter giving subtle hints of Marty’s longings to break free from a twin sister who, as Mrs. Pascal would have it, “was holding Marty’s penis when they came out of the womb. The doctor’s swore it to me. It’s in some medical journal somewhere.”
The House Of Yes’s topnotch design team also includes lighting designer Rebecca Raines, who makes us believe that it is indeed candlelight illuminating most scenes; sound designer Norman Kern, whose dramatic thunderclaps and musical underscoring enhance the play’s ominous mood; and prop designer Natalya Zernitskaya, whose assorted pistols (among other knickknacks and doodads) hint that there may be more danger ahead than simply an approaching hurricane.
Casting is by Michael Donovan, CSA. Caitlin Rucker is stage manager. The House Of Yes is produced by Sankowich and Margie Mintz.
It is worth noting that with its 60% AEA-member cast, The House Of Yes is the kind of non-membership company 99-seat production that will be L.A. theater history a mere year from now if Actors Equity has its way, all the more reason to savor The House Of Yes now, a quarter-century after its San Francisco World Premiere.
Anyone who takes pleasure in The Dark And The Twisted will want to say “Yes” to The House Of Yes.
Zephyr Theatre, 7456 Melrose Avenue, Los Angeles.
May 29, 2105
Photos: Ed Krieger